China’s lunar probe Chang’e 4 just revealed the unexpected

Chang’e 4

As a first probe to the dark side of the Moon, China’s Chang’e 4 was definitely on the path of making discoveries, and guess what? the rover has detected mantle rocks on the Moon’s surface — something unexpected.

According to the report published in journal Nature, researchers from the National Astronomical Observatories of Chinese Academy of Sciences unveil that the lunar surface soil composition at the South Pole Aitken Basin is not what they were expecting, it is different when compared to normal lunar surface.

It is said that moon wasn’t this barren and dead, but instead had oceans of molten magma. The oceans then slowly cooled, which lead to the deposition of heavy minerals like green-olive and calcium pyroxene deep into the mantle and the lighter minerals comprised the upper layers — creating an onion like geological layers. The top layer is mostly comprised of plagioclase or aluminium silicate.

Back in January, Change’4 made landing on the Von Kármán Crater, located on the South Pole Aitken Basin. The lander then released the Rover (YUTU-2), which with an onboard spectrometer measures reflected light. The way scientists study the lunar surface is quite amazing, they judge minerals from how they reflect light and their judgement reveals that along the Von Kármán, there is an abundance of green olivine and pyroxene.

According to the authors of the study, these minerals are expected to be much deeper. Finding them on the surface means they were ejected somehow — best guess is a meteor strike. They would have been sprayed across the region during the creator’s creation.

Li Chunlai, co-author, said “Understanding the composition of the moon’s mantle is critical for judging if the magma oceans ever existed.”

China’s study of the lunar mantle is also important because even though space agencies like Nasa have made human landings on the moon, there has never been an effort like this on studying the lunar mantle composition.